Bill Promotes R&D In Camden, Essex, Mercer, Middlesex & Somerset

(TRENTON) — Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Upendra Chivukula, Linda Greenstein, Pamela R. Lampitt and Joseph Egan to establish innovation zones to stimulate technology industry clusters around research universities and hospitals in the Newark, Camden and Central Jersey regions was released Thursday by an Assembly panel.

“By drawing on existing research and academic facilities, we will do a better job of fostering innovation and creating new entrepreneurial opportunities,” said Chivukula (D-Somerset/Middlesex). “New Jersey already boasts one of the most highly educated population centers in the country. Now we can do more to firmly establish this with new businesses, new opportunities and good jobs.”

“By creating a means for a collaborative support system among universities, hospitals and businesses across the state, New Jersey will continue to lead the way academically, technologically and economically and see business and job growth,” said Greenstein (D-Middlesex/Mercer). “Innovation zones create a network for businesses in New Jersey and maintain a pipeline of new employees through relationships with our higher education institutions.”

“Innovation zones are a win-win for universities, businesses, hospitals and the state as a whole,” said Lampitt (D-Camden). “These zones will make New Jersey more inviting to businesses planning to move here as well as keeping the state regionally competitive.”

“Taking advantage of the talent and expertise already available in this state to improve our business climate and help our workers is a smart approach,” said Egan (D-Middlesex/Somerset). “This is especially important in tough economic times.”

This bill (A-904) requires the New Jersey Economic Development Authority to establish three innovation zones, with each zone surrounding a New Jersey research university, college or research hospital and located in the Camden area, Newark and Greater New Brunswick.

Under the bill, the Camden area includes Camden, Glassboro, Mantua in Camden County.

The Greater New Brunswick Area includes New Brunswick, South Brunswick, North Brunswick, Piscataway in Middlesex County, Franklin in Somerset County and Princeton Township, Princeton Borough, Plainsboro, East Windsor and West Windsor in Mercer County.

The sponsors noted the Central Jersey zone, for instance, would draw on such prestigious institutions as the Sarnoff Center, Rutgers University, Princeton University and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and would spur new levels of investment in Central Jersey communities along the Route 1 corridor.

The sponsors said an innovation zone is a geographic area surrounding a New Jersey research university, college or research hospital, or any combination thereof, that has the potential to attract a collaborative research effort between the academic communities, research hospitals and New Jersey’s technology industry, resulting in business and job growth.

The NJEDA executive director is to recommend the precise geographic boundaries of the innovation zones and subzones to the members of the authority, who shall give their final approval. The bill requires the authority, with the approval of the State Treasurer, to modify its existing programs where permissible to give bonuses or other enhanced incentives to businesses located in an innovation zone.

Programs to be utilized in this regard shall include the Business Employment Incentive Program, the Seed Capital program, the Springboard Fund, the Technology Tax Certificate Transfer program, the Garden State Life Sciences Venture Fund and other technology funding programs.

Also, the bill requires the Commission on Science and Technology to modify its programs where permissible by law to promote and support networks and collaboration between the technology industry and university or hospital researchers in the innovation zones, increase federal funding to universities of strategic importance to New Jersey’s technology industry, promote the transfer of technology and commercialization of new ideas in the innovation zones and to further develop support for technology companies in the innovation zones.

With the assistance of these state entities, the authority and the commission may recommend potential future innovation zones to enhance cluster-based economic development strategies anchored by research universities, colleges or research hospitals.

The measure was released 4-1 by the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee.

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